Ahhhmm, But Maybe He is an Arab…(Updated October 29, 2008)
This is how the New York Times wrote up yesterday’s kerfuffle at the McCain rally in its print Saturday edition:
Later, a woman stood up at the meeting, held at Lakeville South High School in a far suburb of Minneapolis, and told Mr. McCain that she could not trust Mr. Obama because he was an “Arab.”But on the NYTimes’ website, which I assume is the more updated version of the story, the same paragraph ran without the words in brackets: (He did not correct her…)
Mr. McCain replied: “No, ma’am, he’s a decent family man, citizen who I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues. And that’s what this campaign is all about.” (He did not correct her false depiction of Mr. Obama) At that, the crowd applauded.
Hmmmm, is the NYTimes hedging its bets on this whole Arab ancestry thing?
While I applaud Senator McCain for not allowing “Arab” to become a pejorative term (…after all, I am half an Arab myself), I find Senator Obama’s embarrassment at his possible ancestry a little offensive.
Here’s where the whole Obama’s “Arab ancestry thing” comes from:
-Obama’s grandfather hailed from Kenya's eastern region, where a Somali-speaking minority lives. This minority is Sunni Muslim and considers itself Arab. (Pssst, completely unsubstantiated: some claim descent from the Prophet Muhammad through his grandson, Imam Hussain!)
-Somalia, Kenya’s neighbor to the east, is a charter member of the Arab League.
-“Grandma Sarah”—the lady characterized in the press as Obama’s grandmother—is not actually his biological grandmother. She lives on the shores of Lake Victoria (in Kenya’s western region) and she is, like most of the Kenyans in that area, of the Luo ethnic group.
-According to the Egyptian ‘tabloid-ish’ press, Obama has a half-brother living in Cairo who’s been trying to claim Egyptian citizenship on the grounds that he’s ethnically Arab. (Updated, October 29, 2008: this story turns out to be BS. It seems to have originated from a piece of satire written by the Egyptian editor of Al-Dustour, Ibrahim Eissa, in which he imagines what would have happened had Obama had an half-brother growing up in Cairo.)
-While visiting Kenya in 2006, Obama insisted on traveling to an obscure village in the Somali region of Kenya. That’s where he was photographed in the local Somali dress of the people. I believe Obama insisted on going there because he’d heard that this village was his ancestral home, and he was duly welcomed by the village elders as a returning son. (Updated, October 29, 2008: this village would be the Wajjir area of eastern Kenya.)
Obama, during his visit to Kenya's east
So, these are the points that someone in the press needs to follow-up on, preferably before the election. This could all be a wild goose-chase, but since there are some folks out there (such as myself) who believe it, isn't it worthwhile for the press corps to travel to Kenya (don't forget your work permits!) and get to the bottom of this story, if only for the satisfaction of proving loons like me and that woman asking the question wrong?
Why is this relevant?
Well, Obama is supposed to be making history as the first African-American contender for the presidency. If the above is verified, then Obama would still be making history, but this time as the first Arab-American contender for the presidency.
There are seven Arab countries in the African continent: Mauritania, Morocco, Algeria, Libya, Egypt, Sudan and Somalia. But African-Americans have a different opinion about the ethnic Arabs their ancestors had encountered: it seems that Arabs accounted for a large proportion of the slave-traders. So this whole Arab thing may not go down well with them.
Oh, and elderly Jews in Florida will freak out too.
It seems that the New York Times distorted McCain's response in its print edition by claiming that "(He did not correct her false depiction of Mr. Obama)". If you watch the video of what happened (AP video link) then it becomes clear that McCain did in fact tell the lady asking the question that she's wrong about Obama being an Arab, twice.
The NYTimes story was written by Elisabeth Bumiller and Adam Nagourney (contributor), and if you look back at the stories that this pair have written so far this election season, you'll find plenty of subtle narratives undermining McCain. (Thanks KL for catching this)
But that would mean that McCain allowed "Arab" to stand as pejorative term, and he only absolved Obama of this particular accusation! Bad McCain! Bad McCain! (...But I still luv ya!)